The strangest way I ever improved myself

For a few months I tried, almost every day, not to utter a single word for the whole day while living my normal life. I’m married, have three kids and at that time, I had a full time job.

I never succeeded.

But I tried more than a hundred times, and I think my biggest accomplishment was to say something only about two dozen times in one day.

It was definitely strange and I definitely improved. I imprisoned words in my head and it triggered a cascade of changes.

1. Self-awareness

I became more aware about my internal dialog. Normally, it goes on autopilot and spills from your mouth without an ounce of conscious reflection. Because I kept the words inside me, I had a chance to notice how they bounce inside my head trying to get out.

2. Emotional Intelligence

I’m an introvert. Give me some good books and I can spend a few months not seeing another human being.

But I’m also a human being. We are so social animals and we don’t admit that. When I kept my mouth shut, I quickly realized how many of my verbal interactions were just an attempt to create a rapport with others. My words weren’t meant to convey information. Rather, most of them were meant to emphasize my positive traits, make me feel better because I was trying to impress others or simply create a bond with people.

That was a huge discovery for me. Quickly, I recognized the same patterns in other people. Once I became aware of how much we interact only to socialize, I was able to notice when someone tried to inflate their ego, to impress others, to entice compassion with a self-pity party or say something only to be heard in the conversation, with no sensible agenda at all.

Nowadays, it’s very hard to make me angry in conversation. I see through the other person’s words straight to their intentions.

And I find people less irritating. I have a workmate who simply loves the sound of his voice. In the past I wanted to rip the guy’s guts off. Now I’m telling myself: “Well, I’m exactly the same; only the scale differs a bit.”

3. Self-control

“There is no labor from which most people shrink as they do from that of sustained and consecutive thought. It is the hardest work in the world.” — Wallace D. Wattles

Taming one’s tongue is one of the hardest jobs in the world. It’s an enormous mental effort. My practice of silence increased my focus, sharpened my attention to details and contributed to my ability to work deep for extended periods of time.

Steering your speech is almost as hard as steering your thoughts. Everything you say begins in your mind first. The most efficient way to control your tongue is by controlling your thoughts. And if you can control your thoughts, you become a master of your fate.

Of course, I didn’t gain the ability to think whatever I want to think in each and every second. Probably every novitiate for a Buddhist monk is better at that than me. However, my ability to steer my thinking and mindset definitely increased, and it improved while living my totally average normal life!

4. Personal philosophy

I rebuilt my personal philosophy from “Live to just get by” to “Progress is my duty.” I credit my silence to at least part of how swift and smooth this process was. I was able to control my thoughts better, thus I was able to get a grip on my internal interpretation of everything that happened in my life.

This is a crucial part of changing one’s philosophy. You can read a lot, you can interact with successful people, but it may be all in vain if your self-talk is destroying your progress as you build it.

You can diminish every success principle and deride any good advice in your mind and stay the same, despite of loads of new insights. That’s the secret behind the phenomenon of self-help junkies who read and listen a lot, but progress very little.

I avoided this trap thanks to my silence. I became self-aware of my thoughts, so I could quickly notice when I torpedoed my own progress. I didn’t allow my internal voice to neglect what I was studying, thus I was able to solidify my new personal philosophy relatively fast.

Or is it not so strange?

Scientists have concluded that it’s beneficial for our health — it lowers blood pressure, boosts the body’s immune system, decreases stress by lowering blood cortisol levels and adrenaline, promotes good hormone regulation, and prevents plaque formation in the arteries.

A 2013 study found that two hours of silence could create new brain cells in the hippocampus region, and a study from 2006 concluded that two minutes of silence relieves tension in the body and brain and is more relaxing than listening to music.

Scientists connected silence with increased creativity, better cognitive abilities, and relief from insomnia.

Shut up. Silence is a powerful tool for improvement.

This article originally appeared on Medium.